JAN Trust is a multi-award winning charity empowering and providing leadership for women in order to create positive and active citizens of society

Social Media,

On Internet Safety Day – let’s commit to defending our families

It’s Internet Safety Day today and I can’t stress just how important it is for parents to be aware of what their kids are looking at online. All teenagers crave their personal space and so we have to approach this with tact and diplomacy. But there are well-recognised warning signs when your son or daughter is being groomed online by extremists or worse, terrorists.

This isn’t about parents smothering their children with too much attention or feeling excluded from their children’s lives. It’s about the reality of groups like Daesh and Al Qaeda targeting teens with some pretty horrific material. Recent output from these groups in English and other languages has included guides to carrying out bomb attacks, knifings and kidnappings.

Alongside the text are diagrams going into explicit detail of where to plunge the knife or how to send a letter bomb. All of this presented as if committing a terror act was the most natural thing in the world. One can only imagine the impact this could have on an impressionable or highly disturbed mind. In fact, one doesn’t have to imagine it – a string of recent atrocities should have made the risk crystal clear to all of us.

As Daesh faces defeat for its so-called “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, it’s gone into hyper-drive on social media, urging anybody to carry out brutal attacks in its name. This shows us what’s particularly dangerous about our new digital world – that terror groups can not only spread their message, but also remotely direct and guide individuals to perpetrate murder –  sometimes on a massive scale as we saw in Nice and Orlando.

So how does online radicalisation happen? Recent court trials have evidenced in detail how young people are sucked into social media support networks, where they are given a sense of being and a globalised terrorist identity. They are often contacted via Twitter then drawn into the darker corners of the web, encrypted spaces where conversations are harder to monitor. There is no single route to being radicalised online but there are some very well worn paths.

Frighteningly, we’ve seen teenagers engaged in direct conversations with a charismatic Daesh killer in Syria or Iraq who will give them easy answers to life’s problems. Their young targets are presented with a binary choice between the world of disbelief and that of Daesh with its twisted and corrupt version of Islam. This has proven very seductive to some young men and women because they don’t hear alternative and corrective viewpoints. Instead of turning to parents, teachers and faith leaders for guidance, they listen to their Daesh handler online or the rants of extremist hate preachers on YouTube.

The internet should be about spreading wisdom, but instead it has disseminated fake news and totalitarian ideologies. It has risked polarising young people with the toxic combination of both Far Right and Islamic terrorist material. Both of these forms of extremism relish an end to compromise and reasoned debate. The vicious slanging matches and supremacist insults on social media are their natural form of debate. Neo-fascists and Islamic terrorists are not interested in using the online space to educate and inform, to them it’s about forming battle lines and hardening attitudes. We simply can’t let that happen.

For those of us who still believe in truth and honesty, these can seem like grim times. But this is why Web Guardians© runs such valued sessions, so we can come together to defend those we love from lies and hate-filled violence. In our school playgrounds and university coffee bars, there are people being deceived by online demagogues or watching indescribably brutal executions and slaughter circulated by the Daesh PR machine.

We’ve endured this situation for a long time but also learned how to contain it and push back against the hatemongers. On this Internet Safety Day, let’s commit once more to protecting our families and neighbourhoods from poisonous views. We all cherish free speech and democracy. But we need to recognise those who are using the power of social media to wreck lives and set us against each other.

For more information and to know what you can do – come and attend one of our Web Guardians© sessions.

Sajda Mughal

Jan Trust

 

The rise of the trolls!

Trolls

 “One person said I should get cancer, I had somebody threatening to find me and tie me up”.

Last week, best-selling feminist author, Jessica Valenti, decided to take a break from social media following death and rape threats directed at her 5 year-old daughter. In recent weeks, there has been a surge in online hate and abuse directed towards women. A fortnight ago, JAN Trust participated in a conference held in London organised by Reclaim the Internet, to address the issue of online abuse. Reclaim the Internet is a campaign which brings together media platforms, tech companies, campaign groups, think tanks, employers, trades unions, politicians, the police, teachers, students, journalists, public figures, youth organisations and young people to take a stand against online abuse.

Our Director, Sajda Mughal, has been the target of online hate speech a number of times. Recently, she was subjected to a tirade of abuse on Twitter following a tweet she posted about the Fireman Sam Quran incident which sparked an Islamophobic row. This week, Nottingham Women’s Centre manager, Melanie Jeffs, who successfully campaigned for misogyny to be considered a hate-crime spoke out about the abuse she’s received since Nottinghamshire Police started recording misogyny as a hate crime. The most recent high profile case of online abuse was that of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones who received a torrent of racist abuse on Twitter. This led her to quit the social media platform but before doing so she spoke out against racist Twitter trolls and urged Twitter to do more to fight racist abuse saying we need to “stop letting the ignorant people be the loud ones.”

A study has revealed that in the space of 3 weeks from the end of April, 6500 Twitter users received 10,000 misogynistic tweets in the UK. Internationally, the figures were 200,000 misogynistic tweets sent to 80,000 people – surprisingly, over 50% of offenders were women! A report was released by the United Nations in January 2015 which “suggests 73% of women worldwide have been exposed to or are the target of some form of cyber violence. In the 18 months since then, online abuse – particularly of women, and, in the wake of the murder of the British MP Jo Cox, female politicians – has come under greater scrutiny”.

Women aren’t the only ones being attacked online. There are countless news stories about children being afraid to go to school or college or committing suicide because of cyber-bullying. There are also stories about young people with health issues such as anorexia who face a barrage of abuse online.

Although some perpetrators have been prosecuted, civil society organisations have said that there isn’t enough being done to tackle online hate. Social media companies have been told by the government that they need to do more. Currently, Twitter’s website provides it users with instructions on how to stop abuse received via its platform. This can be done by either blocking the Twitter account, or reporting it. However, if Twitter deletes the account, the same person can create a new account. People won’t stop abusing others online until there are stricter community guidelines and they realise the consequences of violating these guidelines.

At JAN Trust, we are standing up against the hate; through our Web Guardians© programme, we educate women and mothers on how to they can protect themselves and their children when online.

Uniting For A Better Internet: What We Can All Do To Stop Extreme Content Reaching Our Kids

Hate speech, online ‘trolls’ and extremists who use the internet to target our children were thrust back into the headlines this week as MPs summoned tech giants to answer why they’re not doing more to stop it.

Executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google were asked by the Home Affairs select committee why they did not police their content more effectively.

The social media leaders were told their companies had a "terrible reputation" for dealing with problems.

It is a welcome move. Pressure needs to be put on these companies to do more. They are often accused of putting profit over the safeguarding of young people and at this hearing, MPs asked exactly that tough question.

The response was an acknowledgement that they are indeed not doing enough.

We are gravely concerned that terrorist organisations such as Daesh are ramping up their efforts to target young adults here in the UK via the platforms these tech giants provide, so any progress made to more effectively police content is great news.

Back in December 2016, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft announced they were teaming up to tackle extremist content. They pledged to work together to identify and remove extremist content on their platforms through an information-sharing initiative.

This represented a welcome first step. We hope that the Home Affairs select committee hearing will encourage further moves forward.

However, the content on these sites and apps is vast. We, as users, need to assist in policing and reporting far-right, terrorist or bullying content so that the tech companies can act.

And we also need to monitor what our children are accessing when online, whether that’s via computer or their smartphones.

Safer Internet Day 2017 was celebrated globally on Tuesday 7th February with the theme 'Be the change: unite for a better internet'. We published a blog on the day focusing on what parents can and should do to play their part in safeguarding our kids. This holds the key.

It’s right that the powers that be from the tech giants are taken to task about their safeguarding shortcomings and challenged about how and when they are going to start doing more to remove extreme content.

But each and every one of us must unite in our fight to ensure threatening posts which can lead to radicalised views do not reach and begin to indoctrinate our children.

We must educate ourselves and our children about online material and what to do if we come across it. Understanding that while the internet is an incredibly valuable resource it can pose a risk to our wellbeing.

At JAN Trust, we aim to help mothers who fear for their children’s safety online with our Web Guardians© project. Our sessions explore how to deal with the threats and how to speak with our children about them.

Our strategy begins right in our homes. We are encouraged by government moves to question the social media giants and hope this leads to a reduction of extremist content online. But we must work together, uniting for a better internet. And for a brighter future for our children.

‘Masculinity so fragile a woman only needs to breathe to hurt it’

“As a women (sic) we must stand up for ourselves. As a women we must stand up for each other … As a women we must stand up for justice. I believe that I am a modern day feminist. I believe in equality. I need not to choose what type of women should be. I don’t think there is any need to label ourselves just for sake of society. I am just a women with free thought free mindset and I LOVE THE WAY I AM. J” Qandeel Baloch wrote just three days before her murder.

In the early hours of Saturday, social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch (born Fouzia Azeem) was given a tablet and then strangled to death by her younger brother Waseem in a so-called ‘honour killing’. Her brother admitted at a press conference in the presence of police that he had murdered his sister because “she [had] brought dishonour to the Baloch name” with her provocative posts on social media.

Feminist groups in Pakistan immediately launched an online petition condemning the murder of Qandeel Baloch and demanding that the government put her killer on trial. Since her murder on Saturday various opinions have been expressed with some including those who support the petition blaming her death on the way in which the media attacked her and revealed information about her private life. The Pakistani Government was also blamed for failing to respond to Baloch’s request for protection.

According to the BBC, 1,096 women were killed in Pakistan by relatives in ‘honour killings’ last year. This represented a 21% increase between 2013 and 2015. In February, Punjab, the country’s largest province, passed the Protection of Women against Violence Bill, a landmark law, criminalising all forms of violence against women. This was met with an uproar by religious groups and all mainstream Islamic parties who want the law repealed. They fear that the law will encourage women to divorce thereby destroying the country’s traditional family system. In reality, what is feared is the loss of control of women and the dismantling of a patriarchal society.

In a recent and rare development the state has become the complainant in Qandeel’s murder making it impossible for her family to pardon her killers by using blood money laws. Blood law is a traditional law which involves the payment of blood money.  It is usually the avenue taken by families but leads to the dropping of murder charges. What is needed is reform of such laws so that those who commit such acts are tried in court.

‘Honour killings’ are not just a problem in Eastern culture but in Western too as Pakistani feminist groups pointed out in their petition citing the following cases: 31-year-old Maria Nemeth disembowelled by her boyfriend Fidel Lopez in Florida, United States; 27-year-old Farkhunda beaten to death by a mob in Kabul, Afghanistan; 37-year-old Miriam Nyazema stabbed 26 times by her British soldier Josphat Mutekedza; the multiple victims of Elliot Rodger a violent, anti-woman killer with a manifesto in California, United States.

In the UK, 11,000 UK cases of so-called ‘honour crime’ have been recorded in five years from 2010 to 2014. Since it was established in 1989 JAN Trust has worked tirelessly to tackle honour-based violence (HBV) in its various forms for example, murder, assault, forced abortion, disfigurement, enforced suicide, kidnapping and false imprisonment or any other crime motivated by honour in order to uphold perceived cultural and/or religious beliefs.

Not only do we work with communities and religious groups and seek to influence government policy but we also provide training on HBV for agencies across London and the UK. Our training is culturally sensitive and explores religious stipulations. If you are interested in attending or arranging a training session please contact us at: info@jantrust.org
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